Impressing Europe’s top tech and media investors, innovators and entrepreneurs with gadgets is no easy task. If they haven't already seen it they probably invented it. But impress is exactly what Stuff did at this year's Founders Forum London – an invite-only meeting of ludicrously successful minds from across the world.
Held at The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire, Founders Forum is a chance for said boffins to map out future trends for the delectation of us mere mortals. Stuff was asked to curate the event's Demo Room by one of the chaps who set it up, Lastminute.com and Made.com founder Brent Hoberman – and it was a blast.
From the foyer, where a pair of Agility’s Saietta electric superbikes drew admiring glances and RoboSavvy’s Nao robot befriended guests on Facebook just by looking at them; to the entrance hall, where AlphaSphere’s creator Adam Place was processing beats with his amazing ball-shaped midi controller; to the back hall, where Orbotix’s Sphero roamed, Parrot’s AR.Drone 2 hovered and Mint Digital’s Polly rewarded designer Ben Redford with gumballs whenever relevant tweets were posted – a bit like a Pavlovian experiment with geeks instead of dogs.
Human Media Lab provided the most mind-blowing demo of the day. The research group from Queen’s University in Canada was showing off TeleHuman – a 3D ‘holographic’ projection on a 7ft tracing paper tube, with images controlled using arm movements and multiple Microsoft Kinect cameras. Uses include Minority Report-style gesture-controlled displays and 3D holo-conferencing systems in which it’s possible to walk around the projection of the person you’re speaking to. It might sound futuristic, but HML’s head Dr. Roel Vertegaal told us such a system could be built and sold right now.
P2i was also a star, stunning guests by live-treating tissue paper with its Aridion nano-coating. Dr. Nick Rimmer treated one half of an Andrex in his fridge-shaped machine while the other was left virgin, and then applied water to each. The effect was incredible. The untreated half sopped up the liquid and went floppy, but water just beaded and rolled off the treated part like it had been spliced with duck DNA. No wonder Aridion's finding success in Motorola smartphones, the AR.Drone and more – it’s practically witchcraft.
Arguably, though, Wow! Stuff’s Combat Creatures demo was the Demo Room’s biggest hit. Debuting at the Founders Forum with a three-metre floodlit battle arena, it pitched the company’s brand new Attacknid toys in an epic deathmatch. These customisable RC robots have destructible heads and legs and fire foam discs out of their mouths at high velocity, the aim being to take as many chunks out of your opponent as possible. These are going to sell faster than crackers at Christmas.
We’re looking forward to next year’s event already.
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